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Spillius, E.B. (1992). Discussion of the Paper by Peter Fonagy, George Moran and Mary Target. Bul. Anna Freud Centre, 15(4):285-289.

(1992). Bulletin of the Anna Freud Centre, 15(4):285-289

Discussion of the Paper by Peter Fonagy, George Moran and Mary Target

Elizabeth Bott Spillius

This paper is yet another fruitful outcome of very interesting work carried out by the late George Moran and Peter Fonagy at the Anna Freud Centre - a fitting tribute to the memory of George's creativity, imagination and erudition. It involves an integration of their clinical work with philosophical theories of mind, with psychoanalytic observation of infants and children, and with developmental research. It stresses that many patients show disturbance not so much in the content of their thoughts as in the process of thinking itself, and they link this finding with modes of interpersonal development. Their approach is also linked, and in a most interesting manner, to aspects of the Kleinian method.

Klein's earliest formulations were very immediately based on her work with small children. Later, when she began to construct a more general theory, she extrapolated, from data from child and adult patients, a hypothetical series of developments in infancy. These descriptions were not based - or not mainly based - on direct observations of infants; they were highly conjectural and hypothetical. But in this Klein was not alone. Freud and Abraham had done the same thing and so have many other analysts. In fact a great deal of psychoanalysis is based on conjectural reconstructions of infancy, mainly derived from the consulting room, but supplemented by unsystematic observations of infants, and implicitly influenced by whatever psychological theories are current at the time. It is as if the psychoanalytic theorist asked himself: ‘What reconstructed thoughts and feelings of infants would be consistent with what I observe clinically and with my thoughts about it?’

Eventually Klein reformulated her earlier findings and ideas into two main constellations of typical anxieties, object relations and defences: the paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions. She made a very important change, however, for she called them ‘positions’ rather than phases, and pointed out that they might alternate throughout life. She thus unhitched them from their place in a conjectural time-sequence in infancy.

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